Considering the Un-Thinkable

I was a senior in high school the year of the Columbine massacre and I remember thinking it would be an isolated incident that would never occur again. By the time I became a teacher, I realized I should at least think about what I would do if I found myself in a similar situation. Most of us have been trained on some sort of “Code Black” protocol where we lock the door, turn off the lights and get away from windows but yesterday on NPR I heard a story about an alternate approach – fighting back. The report centered around what is called “ALICE” training which stands for Altert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.  ALICE trainers assert school shooters end up hitting more people because students and teachers hide and stay still. Instead, they recommend strategies like barricading the door, throwing a large number of items all at once at the attacker to distract from a rushing tackle, and running in zig-zags to avoid being shot.

It is hard to know what you would really do under in an actual situation but I believe it is worth some mental planning. Consider David Benke, the now famous math teacher in Colorado who tackled a gun man at his school in 2010. Benke thought about what he would do if a shooter ever entered his school and he said, “If something happens and there’s something that I can do about it, I want to try and do something about it.”

This is not a topic I have discussed at length with my fellow colleagues but I am interested to hear your thoughts. As teachers, what is our obligation here?

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2 thoughts on “Considering the Un-Thinkable

  1. Chrissy says:

    The HS I worked at last year had a “turn of the lights and hide” approach. I thought it was particularly stupid for my classroom – we were a single room from a back door. Out the door was a fenced lot, and a short distance beyond that was woods. We would be far safer in the woods, despite the cinderblock walls. Nowadays with the ways we can communicate classroom-to-classroom, I’m surprised we’re trained to sit and wait. Also, one student had just gone to the restroom during a drill and we had to literally lock him in the hall – if it was a real emergency and I was his parent, I would be livid.

    Or the high school we (Abby and I) attended together. Windows meant it couldn’t really be dark in most of those rooms, plus every hallway had multiple exits (and classrooms often had multiple entry points). You could get a lot of kids out. I remember thinking about that while I was a student there after Columbine, I knew which ways I’d try to get out, and where I’d go after I left the building.

    Our school also had armed policemen. I don’t know that I would go trying to confront anyone, but in a real situation I think I’d try to get the kids in my care as far away as possible. Make us the hardest ones to hit.

    Gosh, this is heavy for a Friday.

  2. […] save lives? Could my personal sacrifice potentially save others? What would that look like? In a previous post I wrote about resources for educators to consider when thinking through these difficult […]

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